Music

When the first minutes of my phone call with Rex Orange County were marred by squelching static and fuzz, I explained the concept of Mercury retrograde, a perceived backwards orbit of that planet that some believe creates lapses in technology and communication. Rex, born 21 years ago as Alex O'Connor, was polite enough to listen, but let the hesitation in his voice peek through. "There's something to be said about things happening for a reason. I think the nature of fate is pretty fascinating," he observed, both thoughtfully and skeptically indulging my astrological detour.

An anthology devoted to early Nat King Cole recordings was recently released, and it offers a new window into his artistic development. The collection is called Hittin' the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943), and this massive 7-CD, 10-LP package is clearly aimed at obsessives. It's a deep dive that traces Nat King Cole's evolution — from smooth, unflappable piano player into a singing star with an endearingly smooth style all his own.

Among pop culture's great mysteries: How exactly did David Hasselhoff become a rock 'n' roll God in Germany?

The 67-year-old star of decades-old television series Knight Rider and Baywatch doesn't skip a beat when asked the question.

"It all started with a girl named Nikki," Hasselhoff said during a recent interview with NPR in Berlin, where he was on a concert tour of Germany.

It almost sounds like a twisted science experiment: Invite a dozen rock and roll warriors to spend a week at a ranch in the California desert, encourage them to write songs and play together, then capture the results.

It's easy to imagine that Ringo Starr's closet is full of shoe boxes containing old mementos, like the photographs that populate Another Day In The Life, his newest book. The reality is a bit different though.

"If I'm in them, I just lift them off the internet," he says. "Others are what I do on tour when I'm hanging out."

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